My Ecuador Vacation - 2002

In February I spent a very busy month in Ecuador. The first part of my trip was organized by Gateways Tours. This included some tours in and around Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and an excursion to the Galapagos Islands. Most of my visit was in Quito though, where I attended the Simon Bolivar Language school. That's a whole story in itself though - first some pictures of Quito and the countryside.

Quito is located at about 10,000 feet in a volcanic valley in the Andes. It's a big city, and quite long, as it follows along the valley amid the volcanoes - some of them still active! The climate there is perfect with spring-like weather the year round. It's always green and it never freezes - two endearing qualities for a Canadian traveller in the winter. The Ecuadoran people are friendly and kind so it is a lovely place for a winter trip.

The "Old City" has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of all the Spanish colonial architecture. There has been quite a lot of reconstruction and many buildings are very striking. The central square is beautiful and full of life with all kinds of people just hanging out, or selling all manner of things.

And of course there are many churches in the old city. Not the biggest, but to my mind, the most striking, was the Church of the Company of Jesus, the "Iglesia de La Compañia de Jesus". The stone carvings on the exterior were stunning, and the gold everywhere in the interior was breathtaking.

And no trip to Ecuador would be complete without a trip to the city of Otavalo about 2 hours north of Quito. The countryside around Otavalo is very beautiful with rich green rolling hills. Otavalo is famous for its Saturday market where you can buy everything from guinee pigs, to silver jewelery. The central square overflows with people selling craftwork including the cotton clothing is said to be the best in Ecuador.

Other sights around Quito include my favourite, the llamas. This little fellow was a tame one that we all petted beside a roadside store that sold Panama Hats. A bit of trivia: The name "Panama Hat" is misleading. That type of hat was originally made in Ecuador, but it was first sold commercially in Panama.

Another little trip that is popular from Quito is to "La Mitad del Mundo" - the center of the world. This is a site just out of Quito where they have a big yellow line painted on the equator. You can stand with one foot in either hemisphere. There is also quite a good cultural museum in the central building.

And I personally don't think that a trip to Ecuador would be complete without a dinner of the traditional Incan delicacy, cuy! It's bar-b-qued guinee pig and it's delicious!! They're quite big and one is enough for two people. You need to agree who's going to get the head end though as it's considered to be the best part by many people.

All that was great fun. However, my main activities in Ecuador were my trips to the Galapagos Islands, my stay at Simon Bolivar School, and a week at a lodge in the cloud forest reserve of Mindo. Click on each of the big buttons below for more information and pictures about each place. There were all fabulous.

Galapagos Islands
Click here for Galapagos Link
Simon Bolivar School Click here for School Link
Mindo Cloud Forest Preserve
Click here for Mindo Link